West Virginia Supreme Court justice indicted
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — In public, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry gave speeches about honesty and integrity in government. In private, federal prosecutors say, he was raking in money by defrauding others.
FBI agents arrested Loughry on Wednesday morning and took him to the federal courthouse in Charleston to face a 22-count federal indictment.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said Loughry, who was suspended from the bench earlier this month, is charged with 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent. The indictment says his fraud scheme began in 2013, shortly after he was elected.
“It’s a solemn day for West Virginia,” Stuart said. “The West Virginia Supreme Court should be and must be above reproach, even above the slightest appearance of impropriety.”
If convicted on all counts, Stuart said Loughry faces a possible sentence of up to 395 years and a fine of up to $5.5 million.
According to the indictment, the charges stem from Loughry making personal use of a state vehicle and credit card, including trips to book signings and to visit family. It says Loughry also sought mileage reimbursements for trips even though he drove a state vehicle and used a government credit card for gas. The indictment also accuses him of moving a leather couch and a historic, valuable desk from the Supreme Court office to his home during office renovations; and of lying to federal agents about his actions and trying to influence an employee’s testimony.
Loughry was suspended from the bench without pay earlier this month after a state Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count complaint with the court alleging he “made false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive” concerning his involvement in the renovation of his office. The complaint also said he failed to tell other justices about a federal subpoena, and it contained the accusations about moving office furniture to his home and improperly using state vehicles.
Loughry’s attorney, John A. Carr, declined to comment. Loughry has repeatedly denied involvement in the office renovations. One such denial came during an appearance before the House Committee on Finance in January.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement Wednesday evening that Loughry should resign immediately “and spare our state any further embarrassment.”
“This casts another shadow of negativity on West Virginia, which is certainly something we just plain don’t need,” Justice said.
The Legislature’s Republican leaders, Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead, said Wednesday that Loughry should resign while the case against him proceeds.
“There is an established system in place to adjudicate and fairly resolve this matter,” Carmichael said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the confidence and workmanship in the judicial branch of government must be held to the highest standards of propriety and respect. Therefore, Justice Loughry should immediately resign his position as Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”
Loughry was a Supreme Court law clerk for nine years before being elected to the court in 2012. Before that he was a senior assistant attorney general and a special prosecutor.
Loughry wrote a 2006 book chronicling West Virginia political corruption. Fighting corruption became a major theme of his 2012 court campaign.
The federal indictment says Loughry’s scheme to defraud started unraveling in August 2016 in a dispute with another justice about vehicle usage. It says news outlets began investigating “extraordinary spending” by the Supreme Court in the fall of 2017 and reported on the missing leather couch among other things. Authorities say Loughry returned the couch the day after the report and returned the desk three days later.
He was removed as chief justice in February after the justices learned that he had kept the federal subpoena secret.